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Whether he’s channeling bow-down-to-me villainy as Loki in The Avengers and Thor or bookish wit as F. Scott Fitzgerald in Midnight in Paris, Tom Hiddleston is one of the most exciting British actors to hop the pond in recent years. And we’re not the only ones who think so. “I met David O. Russell for dinner when he was in London for Silver Linings Playbook. I just wanted to tell him how much I loved the film. And he basically spent an hour telling me why he thinks Midnight in Paris is the greatest film that’s been made in the last 20 years, and he insisted on taking a picture because he was such a fan of Fitzgerald,” recalls Hiddleston, 31, who’s part of EW’s New Hollywood cover package, on stands now. “And I wanted to say, ‘David, can you please stop? I need to tell you how great your film is!’”

That kind of reaction isn’t unusual for Hiddleston anymore — and it’s not just industry insiders who are starstruck. “I was going through the security machines at Heathrow, and the guard’s eyes went wide, and he said, ‘Oh my God, it’s Loki! Then the whole line turned around. It turned into Comic-Con,” he says. “But I always say, an actor cannot call himself an actor without an audience.”

Fans will get another chance to catch Hiddleston in his Loki cape in Thor: The Dark World (Nov. 8) before he heads to London’s West End to star in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. (He’s also in Jim Jarmusch’s vampire film Only Lovers Left Alive next year.) And after that, Hiddleston says he’ll let his instincts guide his career choices — a bit of advice he got in an email from Thor director Kenneth Branagh when Hiddleston was pondering a tricky decision. “It said, ‘There are no wrong decisions. And you will make the right decision.’ It sounds rather Jedi-like. But what he was trying to say was, ‘Don’t live your life in the fear of making the wrong choice. Just go with your gut,'” Hiddleston says. “The people who excite me are the ones who go with their gut. I think of Day-Lewis, Gary Oldman, Bill Murray, Heath Ledger while he was still with us, Pacino, DeNiro, Branagh. They seem to be very quietly confident about their instinct. As actors they have chased the things that inspire them, which end up being even more wonderful than what we could’ve wished.”

For more on Hiddleston and the other talents who made EW’s New Hollywood list, check out this week’s issue, on stands now.

Midnight in Paris
  • Movie
  • 94 minutes